Sentencing postponed for ex-NYPD Officer Liang
A judge on Wednesday delayed the sentencing of former NYPD Officer Peter Liang, who fatally shot an unarmed man in a darkened public-housing stairwell, as the judge is deciding whether to toss the verdict because of a juror.
Liang was convicted of manslaughter in February in the shooting of Akai Gurley. Gurley had been walking down to the lobby when Liang was patrolling the inside of the building. Liang opened a door to the stairwell and said he fired his weapon once accidentally. The bullet ricocheted and struck Gurley.
Liang's attorneys argued last week that juror No. 9, Michael Vargas, had initially said that no one in his family had been accused of a crime. But after the verdict, he told a newspaper that his father was sent to prison for accidentally shooting a friend to death.
Vargas was subpoenaed by Liang's attorneys to appear at a hearing on Wednesday and was grilled by lawyer Paul Shechtman. Testimony at times became loud and hostile between them.
"You understood you took an oath to tell the truth and if any of your answers were knowingly false you could be subjected to a perjury charge?" Shechtman asked.
"I guess so," responded Vargas, who said that he didn't know his father well.
Shechtman then said, "You don't know your father had been convicted of manslaughter?"
Vargas responded, "I don't know that for a fact, not even today. I do not know what happened. I was young, I was sheltered."
Shechtman also raised concerns about Facebook posts that Vargas made that may suggest that Vargas has an anti-police bias. Schectman said Vargas should never have been on the jury.
Vargas' hearing will continue Thursday, and Liang's sentencing was postponed to next week. The prosecutor has recommended that the former NYPD officer not get prison time.
Liang, who was a rookie officer, was fired after the verdict.
Associated Press reports contributed to this story.